There's an interesting piece up at Terra Nova ruminating on the question of winners and losers in PvP-based games, taking a close look at EVE-Online in particular. Losses can be minimal in a lot PvP games, but the losses can be much harsher in games like EVE-Online - but Nate Combs says that the game has fostered a culture that 'recycles losers' (in a positive way) and helps retain players:
... the Eve-Online game culture has also developed, I think, a number of narratives that allow players to more easily detach themselves from their losses:
1.) conspiracy theories and the shadow-world stories (subterfuge) distance blame 2.) the scale of the alliance struggle dwarfs individual losses 3.) the "intel" / information superiority game introduces a helpful fiction (not bested, but undone!)
Beyond cultural considerations, I think there are at least two structural elements that help recycle losers: A) There is an interconnected social/economic/security ecosystem that spans the three distinctive types of "terrain" in Eve-Online: "0.0" space (alliances), "low-security", and "Empire Space". B) There exists a high degree of organisational fluidity that can exploit the ecosystem of (A)
Since I don't play PvP-type games of any stripe, with a few exceptions on a very minor scale, I can only imagine the frustration that comes along with perceived 'losses' being higher in time and effort to recoup and when redemption isn't just a reloaded game away - but this piece got me thinking. With all the chatter about the 'culture' of 'games' like Second Life and some of the more social aspects of games like WoW, I'd be a lot more interested to see more talk about the game play culture, for lack of a better word, in a lot of these oft-discussed MMORPGs (and games in general, for that matter). I'm not always sure what keeps me coming back to games when I suffer nasty defeats of the type that make me want to throw my console out a window, and I can just reload and try again.
The moon is a harsh mistress [Terra Nova]